by Leda Meredith
The seasonal parade of wild berries is in full swing. I’m gobbling up as many juneberries, mulberries, and blackcap raspberries as I can, as well as preserving some for the winter.
Our wild berry season started with juneberries (Amelanchier species), which are still coming in. These native berries grow on shrubs and look something like blueberries. They first turn red before they turn deep purple. Juneberries have a mild, juicy pulp and an interesting bonus flavor: their small seeds give the berries a pleasant almond-y aftertaste. Because their textures are similar, you can use juneberries in any recipe calling for blueberries (but expect a very different flavor).
Soon after the juneberries, blackcap raspberries (Rubus occidentalis) start to ripen. This is another native species. It’s thorny canes have a distinctive blue-white coating that you can rub off with your finger. It’s small but oh-so-delicious berries pull off the plant with a thimble-like hollow, just like cultivated raspberries.
And about the same time as the blackcaps ripen, mulberries (Morus species) start to drop from their trees. Property owners often hate these trees because they fruit prolifically and stain the pavements of many Brooklyn streets.
I have a deal with a brownstone owner a few blocks away from me in Park Slope. He considers himself “stuck” with a mulberry tree. One year I asked if he minded if I harvested the fruit. He thought I was doing him a favor. Every year since then, he texts me to let me know when the fruit is ready to collect.
Both blackcap raspberries and mulberries can be used in any recipe that calls for raspberries or blackberries. They freeze beautifully (I’m stockpiling them in my freezer until I have time to make jam. Or maybe ice cream – I haven’t decided yet). But in case you really, really need inspiration for what to do with wild berries, there’s a simple but over-the-top-good recipe below.
Wild berries can be found in all of Brooklyn’s parks, and mulberries are a common BK street tree.
If you want help spotting and identifying wild berries and other wild edibles, come on my next foraging tour.
Wild Berries ‘n’ Roses
- 1 pint wild berries
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon rosewater
Drizzle the honey over the berries. Sprinkle with the rose water. Yeah, some vanilla ice cream could add to the party. Enjoy.
Leda Meredith is the author of The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget. She is the Gardening Program Coordinator for Adult Education at the New York Botanical Garden and an instructor specializing in edible and medicinal plants at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Info on her many upcoming classes and events is on her blog at www.ledameredith.com